Bad blood between Biden and Bibi
US veep’s planned no-show at PM’s Congress speech has the Hebrew media split between telling Netanyahu to stand his ground and urging him to back off before it’s too late
Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
US Vice President Joe Biden’s apparent snub of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the American leader indicated he would not attend a speech the Israeli leader is scheduled to give before Congress on March 3, has the Hebrew press riled up Sunday morning.
The front pages of both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom dramatically illustrate the growing gap in Israel-US relations, though opinion writers in each paper offer opposing pieces of advice to the Israeli leader on how to deal with the situation.
In Yedioth, the words “the rift” are placarded in big letters beneath images of Netanyahu and Biden, their faces stern on opposing sides of the page.
Columnist Ben-Dror Yemini urges Netanyahu not to travel to Washington, despite the threat to Israel’s security should a faulty deal on Iran’s nuclear program be finalized.
“With all due respect to the Republican majority in Congress, the terms of the agreement with Iran will be determined by the government,” Yemini writes to Netanyahu. “That is whom you need to convince. If there is still a chance to sway [US President Barack] Obama’s opinions, you are making every mistake possible in order to turn him into an opponent.”
Columnist Eitan Haver echoes Yemini’s stance, warning that “you’d have to be a Shiite suicide [bomber] in order to dare and deliver a speech in front of a half-empty US legislative house.”
“The conversation will be focused on the empty seats, and the Israeli prime minister might lose the important issue for which he came to Washington, the Iranian nuclear [program],” Haver predicts.
In line with the criticism of Yedioth’s writers, the editors at the paper make sure to highlight a picture of Biden warmly shaking Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog’s hand and arm, as if to say the American leadership has already chosen its preferred candidate in the Israeli premiership race.
Israel Hayom, typically sympathetic to Netanyahu, takes a different approach. “A deal at any price,” the paper’s main headline cries out in condemnation of the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program. A small but noticeable overline stresses recent criticism in the Washington Post over Obama’s dealings with the Islamic Republic.
The paper’s top columnist, Dror Eydar, calls on the prime minister to “knock on every door” in order to convince the American public of the havoc which may be caused by a bad agreement with Iran.
Coincidentally, Israel Hayom also shows a picture of Herzog and Biden, though in this case the paper emphasizes a message iterated by Likud officials, who maintained that the Zionist Camp’s speech at Saturday’s security conference in Munich “crossed a red line” as there is no room to “criticize the government abroad.”
Meanwhile, Haaretz chooses to dedicate only a small portion of its front page to the Netanyahu-Biden kerfuffle, focusing instead on the Houthi militia’s takeover of Yemen this weekend. Inside the paper, former Meretz MK Yossi Sarid calls the Israeli government’s row with the US an “all-out war,” while columnist and US editor Chemi Shalev quips that Netanyahu will need a real “deus ex machina” type occurrence in order to “save him from the hole he has dug himself into.”
Jewish Home shifts gears
In pre-election news, Yedioth reporter Akiva Novick breaks a story on the Jewish Home party’s demands from Likud in return for joining the party in a future coalition. According to Novick’s report, the right-wing party will not form a government with Netanyahu unless MK Ayelet Shaked is appointed Public Security minister. The report adds that Jewish Home is set to release an election campaign later this week titled “law and order,” in which it will stress the need to dedicate more resources to Israel’s internal security issues.
Yedioth also covers Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recent demand to be appointed defense minister as a prerequisite for joining a future government. Liberman’s party, Yisrael Beytenu, has seen a steady drop in the polls following a recent large-scale corruption scandal allegedly involving several of the faction’s members.
In Haaretz, West Bank reporter Chaim Levinson discusses the Jewish Home party’s decision to update its election campaign and shift its focus from the general public to its natural voter base, the religious-Zionist community.
Levinson explains that Jewish Home is “bleeding seats” on both left and right, following a controversial decision by leader Naftali Bennett to add former soccer star Eli Ohana to the party’s Knesset slate. The move, which was intended to appeal to voters typically aligned with the Likud or with Shas, did not prove successful, and what’s more, it alienated the faction’s Orthodox-oriented potential voters. Ohana has since announced he will not join the Jewish Home party after all.
Israel Hayom, on the other hand, has two full pages covering American billionaire S. Daniel Abraham, who helped finance the grassroots group V15. While on Friday Abraham denied funding the Zionist Camp party directly, Israel Hayom focuses on the fact that the billionaire apparently cannot recall how much he donated to V15.
“How can it be that Abraham does not know how much money he gave,” the article’s underline challenges. A poorly designed infographic at the article’s top left corner illustrates Abraham’s connections to former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, as well as some of the organizations he has helped fund, such as the left-leaning One Voice and the New Israel Fund.
Swift takeover of Tel Aviv, maybe
In what may possibly be the most exciting news story since Chelsea Handler exposed her breasts for peace, Yedioth Ahronoth reports a rumor that at least four Israeli promoters have been in touch with mega pop star and all-American sweetheart Taylor Swift ahead of a possible Holy Land gig.
According to the report, 25-year-old Swift had been offered no less than $2.5 million to add Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park to the list of venues for her 1989 World Tour. Named after her massively successful album 1989, the tour features such hits as the catchy party tune “Shake it Off” and the slightly-haunting-but-in-a-good-way “Blank Space.”
Neither Swift nor her representatives have so far confirmed the rumors, but in any case, Taylor, you belong with us.
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